Starting to question and wonder about your life, your work and what is next for you, is very common in your 40s and 50s. This ‘midlife questioning’ is something that isn’t talked about much or well understood and so can cause unnecessary confusion and suffering.
But … and it’s a big but … the rewards of listening to this midlife questioning, really hearing what it has to tell you and then acting on it – even in small ways – comes with the greatest of rewards.
Rewards of midlife questioning
In response to my blog ‘Midlife questioning (not midlife crisis)’, for example, one individual commented that their midlife questioning led to:
“A greater joy and an inner peace…once you come out the other side of that period of questioning, you can really face into some of the best years of your life. Questioning for me, led to purpose and living with intention and part of this was then having the courage to set up my own business and pursue my dream.”
And another said:
“It is exactly where I was a year ago. I’m now running a new business with a good friend and despite what’s happening in the world, loving the challenge again”.
A senior executive I worked with previously, and who listened to his midlife questioning, is currently leaving his corporate job to set up a social enterprise helping people on an issue he feels passionately about. He feels he is now really living his life according to his values and what’s truly important to him.
Let me be clear though – not everyone makes significant life changes like this. In fact more often it’s about making small (but nonetheless significant) changes in the way you are working or living your life. To start living your life more closely aligned with what is truly important to you, rather than what you feel you ‘should’ do or have been conditioned to do.
All the people I’ve worked with who addressed their midlife questioning started living life with a greater sense of purpose, ease, fulfilment, contentment or joy and most of them did not make dramatic changes to their life.
The stages of the journey
In order to reap the rewards of this midlife questioning, the first stage is recognising the importance of the whisperings of your gut, your intuition, your heart and to see that they have something to tell you.
The second stage is listening to and deciphering what exactly this questioning is trying to tell you. Rather than a passive process of letting thoughts spin around taking up headspace, this is most effective as an active and conscious process.
And the final stage is learning to trust this voice – this inner voice of wisdom and knowing – and starting to act on it and letting it guide you as to what is right for you in your life and work.
Aspirational vs lived values
Most people can quite easily identify their values – what matters most to them. But on closer inspection these are often ‘Aspirational Values’ – how we would LIKE to be living our life.
I often ask people once they’ve identified their values – if I was to follow you around for a month recording you with a camera and then list your values based on what you actually do, how you spend your time and what gets your greatest focus and attention – would it be these values and in this order? The answer is rarely yes.
In other words, we often know what’s important to us, but that isn’t how we actually spend our time day-to-day. So listening to and trusting your inner wisdom starts with tuning into this part of us – our inner sat nav – much more regularly and making choices about how we spend our time, what we will do and not do, how much time or energy we give something etc – based on what sits well with our inner wisdom or gut.
Acting on your inner wisdom
Some people already trust their inner wisdom/gut instinct and are used to acting on it. So when they get clarity on what their midlife questioning is telling them, it’s simply a case of acting on it and then having the courage to stay the course.
But for most others, it’s a much more gradual process. It’s about taking little steps or making small changes based on what energises you, what brings you joy, what is meaningful or fulfilling for you.
Learning to trust your inner wisdom builds as you pause, tune inwards and ask yourself things like what do I need right now, or what is most important in this moment, or what do I know deep down to be true about this decision or situation.
Reaping the benefits
Small steps taken regularly based on your inner wisdom as your guide and you will soon start living a life more aligned with what’s truly right for you.
So keep listening to your inner wisdom, keep acting on it, and the rewards are there for the taking.